For a printable, PDF version of the graded line for Breeders’ Cup Classic XXXIV by The Green Sheet, click HERE
For a printable, PDF version of the analysis and selections for Breeders’ Cup Classic XXXIV by The Green Sheet, click HERE
National weather service forecast for Del Mar, California
Friday night, November 3: Mostly cloudy with a low around 56. North wind around 5 mph
Saturday, November 4: Mostly sunny with a high near 66. Light and variable wind becoming west 5 to 10 mph in the afternoon
Del Mar: Saturday, November 4, 2017
Breeders’ Cup Classic XXXIV (G1)
Post Time: 8:35 P.M. Eastern
Television: 8:00-9:00 P.M. (Eastern)—NBC
RACE TWELVE—Breeders’ Cup Classic XXXIV (G1)
Defending Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) champion ARROGATE looks poised to rebound from a lackluster summer campaign, where he was shockingly upset in the San Diego Handicap (G2) at Del Mar back on July 22, and was the runner-up as the chalk to his stablemate COLLECTED in the Pacific Classic (G1) on August 19, also over the Del Mar strip. The handsome son of Unbridled’s Song has been training well at Santa Anita in preparation for his title defense, and there is, arguably, no better trainer in North America than Bob Baffert, who has won the last three editions of this race (ARROGATE, American Pharoah, and Bayern), off a layoff. Big money rider Mike Smith will be aggressive leaving the gate from the one-hole, which will get the big gray on the bridle in the race early, a style this colt seems to prefer. “I’ll be aggressive leaving there,” Smith said after the post position draw on October 30. “I’ve got to get position. I’ll ride him hard, like I did in the Travers (G1), and see where that puts me. If I can get right behind the first group, I’ll be happy with that.” Who knows how the Del Mar surface will play in November, but one has to figure that it will be tighter that it was this summer with the cooler temperatures, and this guy won the Pegasus World Cup (G1) and the Travers (G1) from the one-hole facing large fields. The knock on him is the going at Del Mar, but if he bounces back to an iota of his old self, he will be salty in this spot on the day. He’ll get a forwardly placed, ground-saving trip and fire from the quarter-pole to the wire. He may make 9-5, 2-1 look generous; defending champ get the nod.
The striking chestnut GUN RUNNER has really blossomed as a four-year-old, and I especially like that he has shown a new dimension in his past two wins—in the Woodward (G1) and the Whitney (G1), respectively—as he was able to rate off the pace and finish with zeal, a tactic that will serve him well in this spot. I like that Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen shipped him out to Southern California early, and he has taken a liking to the West Coast, as he has been training like a monster at Santa Anita leading up to this race. The strikes against him are his zero-for-three lifetime record at a mile and a quarter, with two of those losses coming against fellow entrant ARROGATE, and how he handles the Del Mar strip, a question that a majority of this field must answer as well. The son of Candy Ride (Arg) got a great post draw and should get an excellent trip sitting off ARROGATE, COLLECTED, PAVEL, and possibly WEST COAST, and he has had a great year, coming into this affair riding a three-race winning streak—all in grade one events—by a combined total of 22 lengths and change. He’s bred to stay 10 panels and would have won the Dubai World Cup (G1) if not for a freakish effort from the top choice; major player in what should be a memorable renewal of the Classic.
I loved COLLECTED to win this race until he drew the 11-hole, but trainer Bob Baffert isn’t worried about the wide draw for this handy son of City Zip. “I like being on the outside better, but I’ve got a lot of good horses on the outside,” Baffert said after the post draw. “It will all work out. They are spread out everywhere. It was a good draw for COLLECTED. WEST COAST is in a good spot there (post eight).” There is a lot to like about this guy, as he’s a perfect seven-for-seven lifetime over “fast” racetracks, possesses lethal tactical speed, and he’s the only graded stakes winner at Del Mar in the field. He loves to win and beat his more heralded stablemate on the square in the Pacific Classic (G1) despite doing all the heavy lifting on the front-end. Jockey Martin Garcia, who knows him well, should be able get a decent position when they spring the latch without losing too much ground, as the outside draw isn’t as detrimental coming out of the chute, and there is a long run to the clubhouse turn at Del Mar going a mile and a quarter. He has been training lights-out at Santa Anita since his last start on August 19, comes into this race fresh, and has won his past three starts off the shelf by a combined total of 19 ¼-lengths. He’ll be a juicy proposition—especially to win—as he figures to go off in the 5-1 price range and could easily be higher if ARROGATE and GUN RUNNER get pounded at the windows. He’s the value in the race; foolish to slight his chances.
The three-year-old upstart WEST COAST has always been a nice colt, but he really came to hand this summer after passing on the grueling Triple Crown campaign for trainer Bob Baffert, who won this race last year with a sophomore colt. The strapping bay son of Flatter is out of the champion Caressing, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) in 2000, and he is just as effective on the front-end as he is settling and making one run, versatility that will serve him well in this competitive heat. He toyed with a nice colt in the ill-fated Irap in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) and beat a good field in the Travers (G1) at Saratoga in his penultimate effort. He comes into this heat riding a five-race winning streak at distances from a mile and a sixteenth to a mile and a quarter, and top jockey Javier Castellano, who won the Classic in 2004 on Ghostzapper, should fit this fellow like a glove. He’s less than a length from being undefeated, will be a great price—in the 6-1 to 8-1—range, and can be counted on to fire in the lane; contender.
Header image: “Jockeys,” by Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917). Pastel on paper, 1886